“Assessment Meeting on Measures and Practices to Fight against Pandemic for 2021-2022 Academic Year” Takes Place in Istanbul

September 21, 2021 / Ista​nbul

CoHE President Erol Özvar met with the rectors of the state and foundation universities located in Istanbul at the “Assessment Meeting on the Measures and Practices to Fight against Pandemic for the 2021-2022 Academic Year” .

The meeting was organized by the Governorship of Istanbul. Ali Yerlikaya, Governor of Istanbul, Prof. Erol Özvar, President of the Council of Higher Education (CoHE), Sinan Aksu, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Recep Ali Er, Director General of Student Loans and Dormitories, and the administrators of 11 state universities, 44 foundation universities and three vocational schools attended the meeting.

They discussed all issues related to the measures to be taken for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in higher education in the new academic year.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya spoke at the opening of the meeting and said, “We have been making full use of the technological opportunities and hybrid learning models in education. However, in-person learning is not just a spatial issue. Schools and universities are places where culture, art and sports activities are carried out where common working cultures develop. They are essential for socialization and communication. In addition, in-person learning is a model that directly affects communication and learning processes, and pedagogical development.” He also touched on the fact that they could benefit from vaccination, which is a powerful tool to fight against COVID-19 this year, compared to the previous year and added, “As of today, the vaccination rate is 83.4 percent. The first dose vaccination rate between the ages of 15 and 18 reached 49.5 percent in a short time. In other words, one out of two young people got vaccinated.”

- "The health of university staff and students comes first"

Following Governor Yerlikaya’s speech, CoHE President Erol Özvar made a speech. He noted that Istanbul was home to almost 30 percent of higher education institutions and that the universities in the province had 23 percent of all formal higher education students and hosted approximately 50 percent of all academic staff.

President Özvar stated that in-person learning was the priority for higher education institutions and said, “Our students will start their education on campuses and in classes. Along with in-person learning, we will also use online applications effectively in higher education according to the regional and local course of the pandemic. After three semesters, students will continue their education on university campuses through face-to-face teaching methods as well as other teaching methods.

Özvar stated that CoHE and universities had used every means possible for the continuity of education, adding that classrooms, canteens, libraries and other social gathering places were made ready for education after renovation and that university administrations made risk assessments and programs according to their student numbers and infrastructures.

- "Our guidelines, which include the framework decisions of CoHE, are 'guiding' university administrations in the practices regarding the pandemic"

Özvar said that CoHE prepared two separate guidelines on the measures to be taken on university campuses and the issues to be considered in the educational processes within the scope of combating the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall term of the 2021-2022 academic year and that the guidelines were prepared in consultation with university administrations and with the support of the Health Science Committee. "These guidelines, which include the framework decisions of the Council of Higher Education, are 'guiding' university administrations in the practices regarding the pandemic. The university administrations also prepared some guides on the COVID-19 pandemic, education, and campuses, and shared them with their stakeholders. Considering that the pandemic is a dynamic process, Turkish universities made flexible decisions by making different plans according to the regional and local course of the pandemic, by means of their relevant committees,” he said.

- “It is of utmost importance for academic and administrative staff and students to get vaccinated”

CoHE President Erol Özvar reiterated that in-person courses started to be offered in higher education and said, “The health of all university employees and students comes first during this period. The responsibility in this matter falls not only on the administrators, but on all of us. As administrators are responsible for taking the required measures, we are obligated to comply with the measures as the stakeholders of higher education. In this context, it is of utmost importance for academic and administrative staff and students to get vaccinated for public health. I request all our stakeholders to get fully vaccinated before the classes start to support their universities.”

- “88.56% of the academic staff have had their second dose as of today”

Özvar also talked about the vaccination at universities for the first time and said, “88.56% of the academic staff in our higher education system have had their second dose as of today. We want to increase this rate to 100% before the new academic year starts. I want to say that these vaccination rates support our determination for in-person learning for the 2021-2022 academic year. Hopefully, the students, like the academic staff, will also fulfill the condition of vaccination for in-person learning by getting fully vaccinated before the academic year starts.”

- “Implementing all the methods during the pandemic is essential for the continuity of education”

Özvar said that the measures to be taken for COVID-19 in classrooms and halls were presented in the “Implementation Guide for Campuses” and listed them as follows: Complying with hygiene, mask and distance rules, airing out classrooms as much as possible, cleaning common areas periodically, carrying out social activities outdoors as much as possible, planning the capacities of classrooms, avoiding crowded study groups, and avoiding block courses by limiting course hours.

- “Applied courses should be offered in accordance with the measures”

Özvar stated that Turkish universities gained experience by expanding the distance education method they had used before the COVID-19 pandemic to all programs during the pandemic and said, “With this experience, they will be able to teach a certain proportion of the courses they deem necessary through this method in the new academic year. The academic staff will teach most of the courses in classes. On the other hand, they will be able to teach some theoretical courses online at the same time, which we call synchronous teaching. The universities will also be able to use applications that pave the way for asynchronous learning. Thus, in addition to in-person learning, courses will also be conducted in a diversified way through distance education methods such as online, synchronous and asynchronous learning. Implementing all these methods during the pandemic is essential for the continuity of education. Applied training courses, internships and vocational training should also continue to be carried out in accordance with the precautions.”

- "Vision for Quality " in courses to be offered face-to-face during the pandemic

At the end of his speech, CoHE President Özvar reminded that educational activities should be carried out without compromising on quality in higher education and said, “One of the most important missions of all Turkish higher education institutions when transitioning to in-person learning during the pandemic would be to follow the educational processes without compromising on quality, in other words, with a vision for quality. Turkish universities should be determined to implement quality assurance policies in education, such as clearly defining the content and outputs of programs and courses, pre-announcing classroom and extracurricular activities for the pandemic, sharing course proficiency criteria with students, and supporting learning processes with enriched materials. In any case, we have to care about quality, because the competent new generations who grow up through quality education on a global scale will carry our country to a bright future.”

Click here to read the full transcript of the speech made by CoHE President Prof. Erol Özvar. (in Turkish)